Recently, I made some big changes to how I handle all my email. Both personal email as well as email from my online business.
In fact, I'm quitting Gmail. I'm even quitting Google Drive.
Now I am running everything through a new company and using only domain-based email.
Domain-based email (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org) is something I think every serious online business owner needs. But, not only that, I think it is a great idea for anybody to use it instead of things like gmail.com, yahoo.com, outlook.com, etc.
In this post, we're going to shift gears for a minute out of WordPress and blogging. And we're simply going to talk about... how to best manage your email and how to set up domain-based email.
Why Use Domain-Based Email?
It is normal to do this if you're running a business or even a blog. You want your email addresses to jive with your brand. But, I think this is something you might want to consider doing even for personal email.
For bloggers and business owners:
- It gives you the ability to use multiple email addresses for different purposes and keep things much more organized.
- It allows your email addresses to fit your brand and hence make them more memorable.
- It means you can pick whatever email address(es) you want without having to worry about whether that username is already taken.
- Most email hosting providers will simply not let you use a free email service as the "reply to" address on your emails to your list. You MUST use domain-based email.
- You can pick whatever email address you want (as long as the domain is your's, of course).
- You can easily set up multiple addresses for organizational purposes.
- You never have to change your email address. Even if you migrate email services or change email clients, you keep your address.
For these reasons, I personally think a domain-based email of your choosing is better than something like Gmail.
But, it goes further (at least for me)...
Why I Quit Gmail (And Lessening My Dependence on Google)
Now, to be clear, what I'm about to tell you are MY reasons for quitting Gmail. It is up to you to decide whether you think it is important or not. There's no doubt Gmail is a great service, but to me it has a big drawback.
With Google, you are the product.
You're not paying them. Hell, they're so big now that even if you were paying them, they probably wouldn't care. But, their primary business model is to use YOUR data to make THEM money. Advertising is their business model. You're just a data set.
Google's free services (like Gmail) are great. They're pretty well-built. They're convenient as hell. And if you're not careful, you get sucked into a full Google ecosystem where it literally becomes PAINFUL to de-Google any aspect of your life.
They've got you by the balls. 😉
And you're handing them all that data about you. Your whole life, essentially. The core operations of your business, perhaps. All so that you can be a data set for targeted advertising or to help them build other products using your data.
On top of all this, I have had a personal issue with "Big Tech" lately in the area of censorship. This is a matter for a whole different article, but "Big Tech" has been quite bad lately at censoring content, controlling what you see and what you even have access to. Google is really dangerous in this regard because of the market penetration of their services and search engine.
Google is the best search engine, but I find I do sometimes use Bing or DuckDuckGo just to see other viewpoints because Google tends to censor stuff and/or give more credence to big corporations.
There have been many, MANY cases of people just waking up one day and finding their life shut down by Google. No email, no files, nothing. Google account suspended. Without any explanation. And, try getting any human being to talk to you at Google. They're so big... they don't care about you one iota.
So, no. I do not want to be reliant on Google any more than I need to be.
And I'm willing to PAY not to be.
It is worth it to not be a product for a big company like Google that can put out sweet-sounding PR, but doesn't give a crap.
How My Email WAS Managed Beforehand
Because I was not being intentional with how I managed my email, things had gotten a bit out of hand.
I had (and still have, actually) multiple Google accounts...
- I had one primary day-to-day Gmail account.
- I had a "throw away" account that I used for emails to organizations that I expect to send me a big pile of promotions.
- I had a personal account (since my day-to-day one had so much volume that family emails could get lost)
- I had one for my RV blog.
On top of these 4 main Gmail accounts, I also have a Google Apps account (now called GSuite). While now a paid service, my account was actually grandfathered in so I don't pay for it.
So, I used GSuite to manage my various BlogMarketingAcademy.com emails. This was my main way of doing domain-based email. And I had records on my domain to route all email directly into GSuite.
On GSuite, every email address was it's own account. Separate login details. It got messy. But, the REAL rub of it was that....
We weren't even using GSuite to manage email. Because we have a help desk (I'm now using HelpWise). So, all these domain-based emails on Google were just FORWARDERS to send email into HelpWise and that's where we managed emails.
Oh, and if that wasn't cross-eyed enough...
I was using POBox.com to set up my one little domain-based email for HappilyRV.com. Why? Because my web host when I started that site (WP Engine) doesn't support email. So, I had to sign up for POBox to even get domain-based email.
Of course, when I switched to WPX Hosting, they could host email. But, since I already had emails being forwarded all over the damn place, I just set up forwarding accounts on WPX.
It was messy.
A big spider web of email forwarders.
So, on top of wanting to de-couple from Google, I also had a mess I wouldn't mind cleaning up.
How I Cleanly Manage All My Domain-Based Emails (And Abandoned Google)
I didn't want to switch to any of the other free email services like Outlook, Yahoo, etc. In fact, I didn't want to go with some "Big Tech" company at all.
I took a brief look at ProtonMail. It is nice and really tickles the privacy itch because it is all end-to-end encrypted. It is a decent platform, but not robust enough for what I was wanting. I have an account with Proton now, but I wanted something a little more polished for my day-to-day use.
I landed on FastMail.
And, I'm really diggin' it.
- I can easily route the email from any of my domains straight into FastMail. No weird email forwarders or any of that. No Google in the middle.
- Once a domain is set up in FastMail, you can easily create any email address you want. You can use it for organization purposes as well as send from that address.
- It is easy to manage any and all of your online identities, right from one interface. No need for separate tabs, logging in and out of different accounts, or any complexity.
- It has integrated Calendar, Notes, Files, and Contact List.
- It is very snappy.
- It has very robust spam filtering, custom rules and filters, and much more.
- They've got a very nice mobile app so you can manage everything via your phone.
- Real, human support! Try getting support from Google some time and see just how valued you feel.
In essence, FastMail is an email hub. You can manage ALL of your email in one place, from any remote email service, any domain-based email, etc. You can even send and receive from Gmail if you want. 😉
I find it a pleasure to use. The calendar is just as robust as Google Calendar, but it doesn't have all the integrations. So, for now I am still having to use Google Calendar as a data source, but I manage it all inside of FastMail.
FastMail is not free, but it is quite affordable. I'm paying $50/year for it. I consider this MORE than worth it considering how important email is to my daily life - and the fact that I am no longer a product for Google to use to advertise.
When you set up your domain with FastMail, it walks you though an easy wizard. The last screen of that wizard is a plain-English, step-by-step instruction on the changes to make at your domain registrar so that all emails from that domain will go to FastMail.
Your blog or website remains untouched and will just use whatever hosting you already use. But, your email will point to FastMail.
Other Alternatives To Setting Up Domain-Based Email
Now, I'm not going to leave this and just assume you're going to want to use FastMail, too. So, obviously there are other ways to go here.
First, obviously you could use whatever email services your web host provides (if it does). Most email hosts will provide basic email service so that you can download your email into any email client you want using POP3 or IMAP. Some hosts even provide their own web-based interface to allow you to manage your email via the web.
The only free option that natively supports domain-based email is Zoho. Like Google, Zoho provides a suite of web apps that cover a lot of what you may need in your business. The whole suite is not free, however they have a "Free Forever" plan that will give you domain-based email for one domain. It has a few limitations, but probably nothing that would be an issue for the normal user.
Another option would be GSuite.
I was lucky to be grandfathered into the free version... because now it costs a minimum of $6/user/month. My old email setup (using GQuite as forwarders into my help desk) would have been really stupid under that pricing scheme. I had 6 different email addresses for Blog Marketing Academy, so I would have been paying $36/month. GSuite is really only a viable option for a larger team that needs the full suite of tools. Otherwise... overkill.
If you are a paid subscriber of Microsoft 365, you can set up personalized domain-based email addresses and manage them via Outlook.com.
Gmail does not directly support domain-based email. There is a workaround, however, that I did for quite some time:
- Set up your domain-based email address on your web host or domain registrar and simply FORWARD email to your Gmail account.
- Then, set up your Gmail account with the ability to "Send As" your domain-based email. You can do this in Settings > Accounts & Import > Send Mail As. Once you confirm you actually own the address, you can send email from your Gmail account as if it is coming from your domain. Savvy people will be able to tell Gmail is in the mix, but for most people they'll never know you're using Gmail.
You could also use Gmail as a POP3/IMAP client and have it check your domain-based email accounts via the normal method.... and then set up the "Send As" per above.
Basically, you CAN set up standard Gmail to use your domain-based email, but it is not a direct mapping. Gmail is not really managing your email... it is simply being used as an email client.
In the end, domain-based email is usually something associated with a business. This means most companies are going to want to charge you something for it. Free, web-based email services aren't built for that and Gmail was already fairly liberal in what it allowed. But, to get true and easy domain-based email with full flexibility, you'll likely need a paid service.
Or, you just use your web host and do email in the "old-fashioned" way using any email program you want (Outlook, Thunderbird, Apple Mail, etc.).
I went with FastMail.
Further Thoughts On Google Reliance
As blog owners and online business owners, we spend enough time trying to placate the Google Gods. We're constantly worried about what makes them happy so we can get traffic.
The amount of control Google has over one's online destiny already bugs me. But...
Why ALSO give them all of your data?
If you want a Youtube channel, you'll need to use Google. If you want to use a robust, free analytics package for your site, you'll be using Google Analytics. We cannot escape Google. But...
Do they need all your email? Your files? Your photos?
Do they need to be able to track all of your searches? They do, you know. You can turn it off in your Google account, but most people don't know it's there. Plus, honestly, how do you know they obey?
Do they need your phone number (via Google Voice)?
Do they need to hear everything going on in your home, via home automation equipment?
Do they need easy tracking ability on ALL of your online activity if you're using Google Chrome?
I say... no.
I'll use Google when I need to, but they don't need all of it. Too much data for them. Too little respect for me. And it gives my business and life one central point of failure. A potential failure point that, in too many cases, has pulled the plug on others for no reason.
They hook you with the free products and convenience... and then they OWN you.
So, just something to keep in mind.